Motor vehicle crashes killed about 19,100 people nationwide during the first six months of this year, continuing an alarming surge in roadway fatalities and putting America on pace for its deadliest driving year in nearly a decade, according to preliminary estimates from a new study.
The death tally was 9 percent higher than it was during the first six months of 2015 and 18 percent greater than the first six months of 2014, when the upward trend began, according to the National Safety Council, a nonprofit created by Congress to promote safety.
Massachusetts was no exception to the disturbing trend.
An estimated 179 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes statewide in the first half of this year, 20 percent more than each of the previous two years. There were 149 motor vehicle deaths in the same period last year and 146 the previous year, the council said.
“Our complacency is killing us,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and chief executive of the council, said in a statement. “One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”
Nationwide, 2.2 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the first six months of this year.
The council said that an improving economy, shrinking unemployment rates, and lower gas prices are believed to be fueling the increase in deaths. That’s because those elements all typically lead to more traffic, as more people commute to work and can afford to drive farther and take vacations.
But even when compared with how much more people are driving, traffic fatalities are up.
During the first half of 2014, there were 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled nationwide. The rate was 1.3 during the first six months of this year.
The states with the largest percentage increases in motor vehicle deaths in the first half of the year were all in New England
Motor vehicle deaths totaled 31 in the first half of the year in Vermont, an increase of 63 percent from the same period a year before; New Hampshire had 61 deaths, up by 61 percent; and Connecticut saw 138, an increase of 45 percent.
Elsewhere in the region, Rhode Island had 23 deaths, up by 10 percent, and Maine had 63, up by 2 percent.
Eight states, and Washington, D.C., had a decline in motor vehicle deaths in the first half of this year compared with the same span in 2015. One state, South Dakota, saw no change.
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